The Sunday Mail
Government has suspended mealie-meal and maize imports with immediate effect as part of efforts to empower local farmers, a senior Government official has said.
Crop assessment reports have projected that local farmers are likely to get a bumper harvest this year.
New permits will be issued for products not readily available in the country. The suspension will only be lifted if local supplies dwindle to levels that cannot meet demand.
The Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister (Crops and Irrigation Development) Dr Davis Marapira said that after the recent revocation of all agriculture import permits, Government uncovered fake licences. He, however, could not be drawn to release figures, arguing that it could jeopardise investigations.
“We have since ceased issuing permits on onions and tomatoes and since April 30, there is no more importation of maize and mealie-meal,” said Dr Marapira.
“Private millers should now buy maize from local farmers. We made this decision within our ministry to create cash for our farmers so that they would be able to buy inputs and implements for the next season.”
Farmer representatives welcomed the maize and mealie-meal import suspension, although warning that a total ban was likely to have negative implications.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union (ZCFU) president Mr Wonder Chabikwa commended Government for the maize import suspension, saying local farmers would be able to meet demand.
“In the previous years, competition with other countries was depressing our local market prices since maize production costs are much lower in the region with an average of $265 per tonne while locally a viable maize producer price is $400,” said Mr Chabikwa.
Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (ZFU) second vice-president Mr Berean Mukwende said although the latest move was an advantage to the farmer, Government should have introduced higher tariffs on maize imports instead.
“Although it is to the advantage of the farmer, there are negative implications which may include smuggling of the banned products as well as sabotage by the middlemen in the market.
“Currently, the middlemen were making super profits at the expense of the farmer and after this announcement they may start inflating prices of end products.”
Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe chairman Mr Tafadzwa Musarara welcomed the suspension but indicated that it was a premature closure of imports considering that the moisture content of the bulk of the maize was still high.
“It is a good thing since local farmers will be able to sell their maize without any competition from the regional market but as GMAZ, we think that it is a premature closure since the local grain moisture content is still too high,” said Mr Musarara.
“There would be no problem if the ban is instituted from June 30 and at least six months were allowed to mop up the local grain before imports resume.”